Human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) preincubated overnight with 100 U/mL gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma) had an increased metabolic response, as measured by iodination and/or superoxide production, to stimulation by tumor necrosis factor (TNF), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), formylmethionyl-leucyl- phenylalanine (FMLP), opsonized zymosan, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS), as compared with cells comparably preincubated in the absence of IFN- gamma. The decline in the staphylocidal activity of the stored PMN was also prevented in part by IFN-gamma, as was the depressed adherence of PMN stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), FMLP, TNF, GM-CSF, and LPS. This protective effect of IFN-gamma on PMN function was associated with the prolonged surface expression of the complement receptor three (CR3) alpha-chain (CD11b), CR3 beta-chain (CD18), FcRII (CD32), and FcRIII (CD16), and the appearance of surface FcRI (CD64). The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify neutrophil RNA- derived cDNA recognized by synthetic oliogonucleotides designed from published nucleotide sequences for specific proteins. Using this procedure, mRNA for gp91-phox, p67-phox, p47-phox, CD64, two forms of CD32, CD16, CD11b, CD18, and actin were found to be depressed after overnight storage of neutrophils, and this decrease in steady-state mRNA levels was in part or totally prevented by IFN-gamma. CD64 and gp91-phox mRNA were generally increased by IFN-gamma to a level greater than that of freshly isolated neutrophils. Northern analysis of CD64 and p47 phox mRNAs confirmed the findings with the PCR method. These findings suggest that storage of PMN in a functionally active state is favored by the presence of IFN-gamma.